Truth and advertising often don’t go together. But the other day, I received a catalog from a clothing company emblazoned with a slogan I wholeheartedly support.
The catalog’s headline read: “If ever there was a year that needed Christmas, this is it.”
You can add Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and holiday happenings – ranging from drinking mulled wine to exchanging gifts – to the list of celebrations and merriment we all need right now. More than ever, we need a dose of holiday cheer.
How can we be upbeat in a year of such unprecedented calamity? Joy seems to be hiding from so many who are suffering amid an agonizingly long pandemic.
And, yet, even amid difficulty, there’s joy. It’s like the sun – a shining star that only temporarily retreats behind the cloud cover.
Of course, like anything we may have lost – car keys, a favorite scarf, or, occasionally, a child in the supermarket – we might need to look for merriment.
Having a mindfulness practice helps. One of the many gifts of mindfulness is the ability to concentrate on what we deem relevant. And we can make a mindfulness practice out of focusing on the good – whether it quietly arrives when we take our first sip of morning coffee or boldly chases away the cold, filling the room with warmth and wellbeing when we light the fireplace. The more we pay attention to moments of goodness in our daily lives, the more joy we feel. It’s a nifty little formula that has a lasting multiplier effect.
The other night, for example, my husband and I made a rare outing in locked-down Los Angeles to buy a Christmas tree. Getting a tree marks the beginning of the holiday season for us. It’s also a mixed bag of an event with tree trunks that frustratingly don’t fit into tree stands, shedding needles that hide in carpets for months and tree limbs that knock over vases.
And, yet, there’s lots of joy. There’s the convivial small talk with the tree vendor and the back-and-forth teamwork to tie the tree to the car’s roof. There are the Christmas tree lights and ornaments with their small gestures of love and memories. There’s also my ability to savor and take in the happiness of every fleeting moment.
Sometimes, periods of great difficulty can make moments of joy stand out just like a Christmas tree. In times of trial, we might find ourselves treasuring our relationships and appreciating those who support us more – from the grocery store clerk to the delivery person bringing us pizza and packages. It’s worth pausing and reflecting on the things that might get you in the holiday spirit. And, if you’re hard-pressed to find any, here are a few tips on how mindfulness can gift you with more delight this holiday season.
Slow Down and Savor: Unlike bold emotions such as fear or anxiety, positive emotions are often subtle. Much of the time, we need to slow down to notice and feel them. And whenever we do, it’s worth savoring them, so our bodies and brains recognize positivity whenever it arrives. Start small by noticing simple pleasures – a warm bath, a gentle laugh, or the cozy feeling of a well-worn sweater.
Hang Out with Joy’s Friends: Emotions such as appreciation or gratitude are like a red carpet for joy – they welcome its dazzling appearance. Practicing gratitude not only raises your wellbeing. It also opens your heart to the many small good moments that are available in your life. Beginning your day with a reflection on what you’re thankful for or writing down a weekly gratitude list is a worthy mindfulness practice to feel more grateful and appreciative.
Use Difficulty to Highlight the Good: No one wants to experience difficulty or to suffer. But sometimes, periods of difficulty can deepen our appreciation for what might be right or even just okay in our lives. However small it may be, we can direct our attention to whatever good exists and coax joy out of the shadows of hardship to visit us, if only for a few moments.